Dear Service Leader or HR Professional,
In this series of short articles, our goal is to provide helpful practices that will ensure the effective hire of the ‘right’ Service Leader. For some of you seasoned recruiters or hiring managers this might be a little basic, however, we get asked a lot about what some of the key criteria for success are. In this article, we will go into more detail related to the CAN, in the next we will discuss the lesser discussed subjects of WILL and FIT.

CAN – ensuring the candidate can do the job is your first priority and frankly the one where most interviewers focus; this covers the following major areas that are significant drivers of performance and meeting the desired expectation. There are five main focus areas that we believe are important to review:

 Education
 Experience
 Knowledge
 Competencies
 Skills and Abilities

Education – a contentious area for some. In the past, deep experiences and knowledge versus a degree plus minimal experience were desired. Today we see a shift to a Bachelor or Master requirement plus experience as a minimum requirement, at times the need to have a mix of technical and commercial degrees, especially for commercial roles.

Depending on the job profile, we have seen different companies approach the subject of education differently. If it is a specialist role like Field Service Manager, the company product portfolio will often determine what is required, e.g. BA in Mechanical or Electrical Engineering, specialist versus generalist qualifications seem to be the priority today. A few will accept significant experience where no BA is attained, especially where local geographical experience or language skills have been acquired. The question of additional education around specific areas like Digital, can be a real plus these days. In terms of the broader business or Masters degree requirement, e.g. in a leadership role, especially commercial, sales or business development, the combination of a technical degree plus the broader business degree can help. However, once again a specialist Masters degree can have more significance, e.g. Manufacturing Strategy for a Digital World. Education is the key to the ‘can’ of the job, does the candidate have the right education to deliver the role.

That said, context is everything, following the transformation of a historically rather technical department to an independent, business-driven unit, sometimes corresponding to 50% of total company revenue and 80-90% of overall company profitability, demands a completely different (or refreshed) educational background. A heightened focus on financials, business administration, sales & marketing and communication to mention a few important areas. In some cases, extensive years of experience in different business roles can bridge the lack of formal education but it is key to remember that with higher education comes also the development of strategic and systemic thinking, holistic perspectives and alternative ways of operating as examples where quantifiable skills are complemented with a new way of thinking.

Experience – does the candidate have the relevant demonstrated experience. This could cover type of industry, application, equipment, company and functional exposure.

 Relevant and demonstrated are the key words here. The more senior the role the more we focus on the thought that the ‘past predicts the future’, i.e. if a candidates has already had success in a particular role, industry, customer or channel segment or geographical area then there is a good chance they can replicate that success. Then there are the companies who look for core experience and technical experience in specific areas like marine pumps or high-speed packaging machines. As the learning curve for some products and services can be lengthy, the ability to have an early impact is critical, in other words past experience reduces the time to induct and orientate new leaders. Other key experiences focus on the context of the business including is it a start-up, maintain or growth role; is the role highly technical or people driven where leading a regional team across geographies with an ambiguous agenda can be difficult. It is becoming clear that more companies do see the relevance of the softer competencies and the experience acquired, customer differences, cultural and go-to-market differences being a few of them.
 One of the major areas for us to evaluate when we are interviewing candidates, focuses on whether they can do the job, and it is a candidate’s past experiences that provide the greatest insight and weighting. If a candidate has significant experience in the FMCG industry and wants to move to the IT industry, the fact is that they may not be motivated in the new environment or fit with the customers or colleagues. When this happens, which is does every day, the employee motivation is not there, and it correlates immediately with performance. The best example is when a candidate wants to move to a Sales/Business leader role, it is simply a ‘gamble’ for the company, hoping that a candidate can translate their previous technical performance in a role that demands a very different character and skills set.

In summary, the type and amount of experience can often determine how quickly the new person can ramp-up in the role. If candidates have relevant industry and product experience and even within the relevant geography, it will shorten the learning period considerably. Conversely, it can limit or even prevent looking at challenges and opportunities of the company with a fresh pair of eyes, where both customers and peers expect a different approach to lift and re-energize the team, creating a new inspirational environment.

Experience similar or same as the role in terms of function it is always an advantage but can sometimes be negotiated if you want to underline certain aspects of the role, e.g. in a regional role, where it is non-negotiable to have a regional understanding but the functional experience can include a range of candidates of different background.

Knowledge – what specific knowledge is required to deliver the aspiration today and very importantly in the future, this covers many areas from geographical to digital to technical.

When we consider experience it really is about how the candidate can apply their past in the new role. Knowledge is very similar in terms of the acquired knowledge in their previous roles and how can this be maximised in the new position. Many companies don’t state the required knowledge in the job description, hence you may need to ask. This can cover so many areas that are critical to the role and can help someone to contribute early in the role, e.g. specific channel to market, food processing technology, SAP enterprise software to broad knowledge on machine performance management.

We also see that this is potentially the area where most energy will go when describing a position. Critical to any role is to understand what accountabilities and KPI’s are relevant to success and to be able to both specify and quantify these as much as possible. An example could be a Technical Support Manager where the focus is on technical expertise rather than for example on sales, however a commercial mindset and business acumen is important to the context and to be able to prioritise and perform in the role. Part of a job description for a Technical Support Manager could then be:
 Lead post equipment sale performance activities by providing technical expertise supporting installed base and managing continuous feedback of product performance, internally and to customers. KPI’s: Time to issue resolution, Claims and Root cause analysis.
 Participate in identifying customer solutions based on equipment performance and operational environment. KPI’s: Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), Customer Operational Cost (COC)

In Services, there are as many as 20 key accountabilities that are relevant to roles ranging from local Service Manager to global Service VP. It is crucial to be able not only to describe these accountabilities clearly but to be able to evaluate and compare different candidates with regards to levels of knowledge. A complementary combination of different types of knowledge is what makes your best candidate stick out from the rest.

Competencies – often overlooked by hiring teams – what are the specific competencies required to deliver the accountabilities, does your company have a competency list?

There is always a high focus on the experience, knowledge and skills, very much seen as the ability to impact the ‘what’ that needs to be achieved. However, it is often the ‘how’ that impacts the overall outcome, we can call these competencies soft versus hard areas of hiring. Some companies use their generic company values to interview candidate and their suitability, most have their own company competency lists that they adapt depending on the role, these lists can be very specific or broad, they state the specific competency and often provide a definition, here are a few examples:

 Drive for Results – Drives for successful results; makes things happen; conveys a sense of urgency and bias for action; moves tasks and assignments toward closure; sets aggressive goals and is internally driven; strives to identify and implement better and more cost-effective solutions; is willing to invest considerable effort to assure deadlines are met in a high-quality manner.
• Adaptability & Change Management – Appropriately changes one’s strategy in response to new information; continuously adapts to changes; deals with uncertainty and vagueness; decides and acts without having the picture totally defined; fosters or champions change to enhance work effectiveness.

If you are interviewing for a position and they don’t state what they are looking for then it is a good question to ask during the interview, i.e. what are the top 3-5 critical competencies that you see that are required for this role. Once hired, it is the competencies that are often used during the performance evaluation process in additional to position KPIs, in other words good to know these beforehand. It is also good to assess yourself on these competencies in terms of your current level of performance but also whether they are competencies that you believe you require to develop your skills, it is not just about the company but very much about how this role will help you with your career aspiration.

Competencies are more generic than knowledge and can be specific per role but be the same for many people in the organisation, e.g. Customer orientation. This implies that you possess an understanding of customer values and can identify and deliver solutions to their pain-points, you are able to put yourself in their “shoes”. This is most often referring to external customers but can be equally well be applied internally when aligning and working with colleagues.

To evaluate competencies is not always easy and relies on self-assessment but also on targeted questions where examples of how and what has been achieved in the relevant competence can be obtained. There are numerous competencies and it is tempting to select too many when aiming to describe a role and match with candidates. It is therefore critical to select the most important ones, we advise the top 5-8 competencies.

Skills and Abilities – some roles will require specific skills and/or abilities which may be more detailed and technical or commercial in nature. Cognitive or similar psychometric assessment can be the difference in some roles as math and systemic thinking deliver.

When we look at specific skills or abilities, these can be seen as the core contribution that a candidate can bring, to help deliver the business aspiration. In this case you may be hiring for now and your current market position or you can be very much focused on the future ambition, e.g. moving from step 1 to step 4 on the service maturity ladder.

Whether it be knowledge, competencies or skills/abilities, during the interview process we are trying to gauge their working level and the suitability for the role we are interviewing for, e.g. if the role needs limited, intermediate, advanced or expert level of performance. If an advanced level of selling skills is required, then it is hard to select someone who has limited or intermediate depending on the context of course. Candidates may have high levels of motivation to develop their commercial acumen as they want to develop from a pure technical role to becoming a business leader or managing director. It is critical that you build this knowledge if you can in your current role through asking for assignments or special projects rather than expect a new company to ‘gamble’ on your being successful in areas you have not contributed to in the past. Education (e.g. Finance for non finance managers) and experience.

Abilities and skills allow you to carry out complex activities or job functions involving ideas, things, and/or people and are deliberately studied to carry out the job. One example is language skill. To be able to perform a job in any geographical area, local, regional or global, your language skill clearly determines how successful you will be in performing your job.
Another example is leadership skill, which is how you deliver on your objectives through the capabilities and motivation of your team.

Your ability to understand what is expected form the role; short, mid and long term, define CAN in enough details and along a structure allowing you to attract candidates, fairly evaluate them and in the end, justify your choice, determines how successful your recruitment process will be.

Service Leaders Matters partners with B2B businesses to assess and acquire top service leadership talent to drive breakthrough performance.